Star Trek: The Original Series

"This Side of Paradise"


Air date: 3/2/1967
Teleplay by D.C. Fontana
Story by Nathan Butler and D.C. Fontana
Directed by Ralph Senensky

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Beaming down to investigate the fate of a research colony that has failed to check in, the Enterprise crew discovers these researchers to be in a state of constant happiness, an effect caused by plant spores indigenous to the planet. Needless to say, Enterprise crew members are infected when the plants are brought aboard the ship, and before long Kirk finds he is the only person left who hasn't abandoned the Enterprise for "paradise."

Of course, the big story point of "This Side of Paradise" is that the spores allow Spock to experience full-fledged emotions and even briefly fall in love. Unfortunately, there isn't enough of an edge to the material. It's pretty bland. Nevertheless, it's probably worth the price of admission to see Spock hanging from a tree, and telling Kirk, "No, I don't think so," when ordered to beam up to the ship. And I must also admit the hilarity of watching Kirk push Spock over the edge into anger once he learns that negative emotions purge the spores. ("Your father is a computer!" has to be among the silliest yet more memorable lines in the TOS canon.)

Still, the best realization in this episode is when the effect of the spores is terminated, causing the research team leader to reflect on how the years have been wasted in a "paradise" that strove for no goals. Bottom line: entertaining, but pretty thin.

Previous episode: A Taste of Armageddon
Next episode: The Devil in the Dark

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16 comments on this review

Wed, Jul 25, 2012, 1:19am (UTC -5)
I think the heart of this episode is with Kirk and Spock. Kirk's sense of duty is so strong that he frees himself from the effects of the spores--proving again that he has a will of iron. Spock never tries to fight the spores, but when Kirk frees him, he also knows and does his duty: "I have a responsibility, to this ship and to the man up on the bridge." Kirk seems glad to be himself again and off on the next adventure, but Spock is reserved, sad, and reflective. All he can say about all of it is, "For the first time in my life, I was happy."
Thu, Oct 11, 2012, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
Agreed. Worth the clumsy fighting and lame romantic music for the poignant last words of Spock.
Mon, Nov 19, 2012, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
At the end of the episode, Bones says the spores left their bodies perfect. They should have taken samples with them! They had the *cure* for every disease and injury and they let it slip through their fingers. Yes, it's a happy drug, I get it. But they found a reliable way of overcoming its effects. Plus, Starfleet could have studied the things and figured out a sterile way of achieving the effects. They could have easily taken precautions to avoid accidental exposure when bringing them aboard. Stoopid.
Fri, Jul 19, 2013, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
I couldn't help but think that this was intended as a commentary on hippie counterculture and the use of recreational drugs.
Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 12:10pm (UTC -5)
That was a very fun episode to watch! The solution was a bit hard to swallow but so many great Kirk/Spock scenes. Spock hanging from the tree, Kirk speechless. Their dialogue after the fight. Priceless.

Not the most convincing plot (and resolution) but who cares.
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
For me the funniest thing in this episode was how the spores somehow gave Dr. McCoy a southern drawl. That seemed weird and out of place, given no one else changed their accents. It wasn't even just an accent: suddenly Bones was off making Mint Julips. Who the heck directed Kelley to turn into a plantation owner, when for everyone else the spores just made them relaxed and happy?
Thu, Mar 20, 2014, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this episode is the first where Spock's race is referred to as "Vulcan" instead of "Vulcanian".

In retrospect: "Vulcanian" makes more sense, since they are from the planet Vulcan. But I guess they thought Vulcan sounded better.
Sat, Apr 12, 2014, 10:48pm (UTC -5)
Drug culture references indeed.

Spock hanging from the tree did this in for me.

1.237 stars for me.
Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 11:17pm (UTC -5)
I love the way DeForrest Kelly says 'Ennerpriiiise' when calling the ship. Used it as a ringtone for awhile.
Trek fan
Fri, Nov 4, 2016, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
For me, this episode is comparable to "All Our Yesterdays" in Season 3, but the Spock romance is far more developed and believable here in Season 1, whereas the latter ep feels more like a "reset button" relationship with very little screen time between Kirk's witchcraft dilemma. The tearful scene with his girlfriend at the end of "This Side of Paradise" and the haunting final line hit all the right notes for me; the farewell at the end of "Yesterdays" feels more like episode of the week stuff. So I'm not sure why Jammer gave "Paradise" 2 1/2 stars and "Yesterdays" 3 stars. For me, the Spock romance and Spock-Kirk dynamic (even the lightweight fight scene at the end) in "Paradise" easily makes it a 3 or 3 1/2 star episode. And the treatment of drugs/counter-culture, topical for the time the episode was made, captures more nuance than any later Trek treatment of this topic that I've seen. For me, this one is a classic, moving and surprisingly fun.
Sun, Nov 20, 2016, 8:03pm (UTC -5)
This episode is a favorite of mine and reflects to talent if writer D.C. Fontana. The one thing I would like to mention: McCoy did not "develop" his southern drawl - the spores emphasized it. In addition to being happy, his was relaxed, which brought out his accent more. The mint julep references are hilarious.

As for taking the plant spores to cure all diseases - the plants traveled they space to that planet, because they needed the radiation to survive. Not only that, the plants are most likely seen as too dangerous to investigate further. If anyoneone wants to go back to the planet with a well-prepared research crew, so be it.
Thu, Dec 29, 2016, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
Spock: "I've never understood the female capacity to avoid a direct answer to any question."

I'm sorry, but that was pure gold. Made my episode.
Fri, Feb 10, 2017, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
A decent episode which touches on a couple of themes - the happy drug culture and how man needs to be challenged, Kirk's love for his ship is the most powerful drug, and an insight into Spock's loneliness - his line at the end is poignant.
What is odd is how Kirk isn't initially infected after catching up on Spock hanging from a tree (one of the classic moments in all of Trek). He must have been in some emotionally elevated state -- he eventually succumbs on the ship after spending some reflective time alone on it.
Bit of a stretch to me how quickly humans come under its spell and why they didn't beam down to the planet in protective suits given the deadly radiation.
But definitely Kirk and Spock's various interactions are gold. Some filler moments in this one which kept it at a slow pace overall.
Not a bad episode overall, 2.5/4 stars for me.
Tue, May 23, 2017, 8:15pm (UTC -5)
What’s so bad about feeling good? The colonists had purpose enough to farm and cultivate food to live. Their health improved to a perfect condition. And they now knew the cure for it. (I would like to know what happened to the animals they’d brought with them. The answer given to that question was evasive.) It seems like the planet possibly could be developed for a recovery facility, under certain conditions. And it was good seeing Jill Ireland again.
Corey R
Mon, Jun 19, 2017, 1:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: Linda - They did explain it. The radiation killed the animals (which is why they were farming) - they only lived because of the spores. Although it begs the question how a plant can tell the difference between a sentient being or an animal (else wouldn't there not be enough spores if the animals could trigger the plant too?), but what-ever.
Mon, Jun 19, 2017, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
Yes, you’re right, Corey. Spock explained that radiation killed the animals, but that the spores thrived on human bodies. I'm not exactly sure how that would work but obviously it did.

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